Is there free will in Heaven?

Is there free will in Heaven?

“Do people in Heaven still have free will?”

Our conversation started with evolution and gradually meandered to angels, free will, and humanity.  I told them that angels had free will and they asked if angels could still rebel.  Explaining that angels will their decision to follow or not follow God with their entire beings, they then asked if people in Heaven could sin.  When I said they wouldn’t, they wondered how free will could be found in a place where there was no sin.

“It seems like free will would just be an illusion,” they said, when I told them that in Heaven we would be purified and would always choose to follow God, even while exercising our free will.

I needed to make a correlation that they would understand.  One student compared it to pizza.  If he said he would eat pizza for the rest of his life, he wouldn’t be free to eat anything other than pizza.  That wasn’t quite the comparison I was looking for in order to explain the situation to them.

I’m not always very quick on my feet.  Sometimes, I want to beg them for more time and to consider than I am a slow thinker, a muller of thoughts and ideas.  Instead, I tried to think of something tangible that they could understand.  How could one make a particular choice that was forever and yet still exercise their free will?

Now that I consider it, I could have referenced Jesus or Mary.  Instead, I used vocations.

“Priests, religious, and married persons make vows that they intend to follow forever and yet they freely choose to will those decisions daily.  Our free will in Heaven is kind of like that, but we are able to perfectly will it always.”

A couple committed to marriage make vows to love the other in a free, total, faithful, and fruitful way.  They still have a free will, but they have publicly voiced their desire to always will the good of the other.  This doesn’t make them less free.  Instead, their commitment allows them to experience the freedom of total gift of self to another.  Yes, they could choose to cheat or leave or lie.  But if they follow the vows, they will freely choose to not do those things. Continue reading “Is there free will in Heaven?”

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Honey, I love you, but being married to you is a burden

Honey, I love you, but being married to you is a burden

“Honey, I love you, really, I do.  But being married to you is a burden.”

My students were asked to imagine that a husband came home and said this to his wife.  Already, there was a bit of disdain in their eyes for the husband.

“Oh, I am?  How am I so burdensome?”
“Well, I love you, but sometimes I want to do things and I can’t because of you.”
“Like what?”
“There are a lot of attractive and smart women I run into at work and I can’t date any of them.  Sometimes I want to just catch a plane and fly to Florida for a week, but I would have to tell you first and you might want to come.  You are interesting and wonderful and I love you, but sometimes marriage is restrictive.”

Each time I told this to my students, it worked.  They did not think highly of the husband and were, rightfully so, annoyed with his list of burdens.

Wow, they gasp, he is the worst.

But aren’t these things true?  I asked my students.  He isn’t allowed to date other women, is he?

No, they reply.

Shouldn’t he talk to his wife about flying off to Florida for a week before he does it?

Yes, they say.

So what is wrong about what he is saying?  Why shouldn’t he say these things when they are true?

After very little discussion, because it seems so obvious, they tell me that he has the wrong perspective.  He isn’t focusing on his relationship with his wife, but simply all the things he cannot do because of his relationship with her.

Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.

Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI

You are correct, I tell them, the husband focuses only on the restrictions of this relationship instead of the love he has for her.

But isn’t this sometimes what we do with God? Continue reading “Honey, I love you, but being married to you is a burden”

Sacramental Records and Sacramental Beauty

Sacramental Records and Sacramental Beauty

I know sacraments aren’t a contest, but how many have you participated in or witnessed in a one week time period?

After I go to confession within the next couple days, I will be at five sacraments.  Five out of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church.  That is a record for me, although I can’t tell you what the previous record actually was.

Last Friday, I went to ordinations for six priests for my diocese.  On Saturday, I attended the wedding of a couple friends.  Yesterday, I became a godmother for the youngest daughter of a couple with whom I am friends.  Interwoven over this week were several Masses and soon I will go to confession to bring the grand total of sacraments to five this week.

One of the beautiful aspects of the sacraments is how tangible they are for us physical creatures.  As I stood behind the mother at the baptism, I watched the priest sign the child with an aromatic cross of chrism.  She was claimed for Christ in a physical way so as to show the spiritual reality.  The water poured over her head, reveals the spiritual cleansing that is taking place even though we cannot see it happen.  Long after the scent of chrism has vanished, her soul will still be marked with an indelible seal, proclaiming her as a new creation in Christ.

At ordinations, I watched the bishop trace the hands of the men with chrism, consecrating their hands and lives to the eternal High Priest.  Beyond the chrism, there was the laying on of hands by the bishop and all their brother priests.  Placing their folded hands within the bishop’s hands, they promise obedience to the bishop and to his successors.  Called to conform their lives to the cross, they prostrate themselves before the altar of the Lord, the place where they will daily offer up the sacrifices of the People of God and make present the sacrifice of Jesus.   Continue reading “Sacramental Records and Sacramental Beauty”

A Laity of Saints: How God Uses the Little for Greatness

A Laity of Saints: How God Uses the Little for Greatness

When I mention that my two older sisters are religious sisters, people often wonder what my parents did to make that happen.  In a way, I understand, because it is mildly unusual in today’s world to hear about young women making vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Yet I also want to fight against this mentality that holiness is primarily for priests, religious, and consecrated persons.  Sanctity is for everyone and we need to continue to proclaim this good news.  

If you are what you should be, you will set your whole world on fire.

~St. Catherine of Siena

Venerable Jan Tyranowski recently came into my life and he inspires me in the quest for a saintly laity.  He was born at the turn of the twentieth century in Poland.  For over three decades, he led a rather unremarkable life.  But at Mass one day, he heard the priest say that it isn’t difficult to be a saint.  From that day forward, he pursued virtue and holiness with an incredible ardor.

When Nazis invaded Poland, they deported several of the priests in parish, leaving behind only a couple elderly priests.  Knowing of his deep faithfulness, the priests ask Jan to minister to the young of the parish.  Despite his introverted nature and little formal education, Jan began this ministry even though he considered himself incapable.  He formed prayer groups comprised of fifteen young men each.  Each man was responsible for daily praying a decade of the rosary and striving to live out particular virtues.  The groups were called “Living Rosaries” and Jan chose a leader for each group, investing time to spiritually form each leader.

Venerable Jan Tyranowski never married and never became a priest, yet his life of holiness impacts us today.  The Second Vatican Council called for the laity to live more fully the mission of the Church.  This call was anticipated in the life of Jan and he did this in the midst of a Nazi occupation.  One of the young men who was in his prayer group and was spiritually formed by this simple tailor was Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope St. John Paul II. Continue reading “A Laity of Saints: How God Uses the Little for Greatness”

Jim and Pam

Jim and Pam

I have a tendency to resist liking things that other people like simply because other people like them.  Make sense?  Of course not.  But I learned that “don’t give into peer pressure” thing really well in elementary school and it just maybe turned me into a bit of a contrarian.  In elementary school, I was pretty adamant about not liking any of the boy bands or Britney Spears.  I was a sharp critic of modern fashions and I was never the first to have anything trendy.

I like to think I have balanced out a bit and that I allow myself to like things that other people like.  Nevertheless, I do like to go against the flow and not adopt things simply because lots of other people do.  So I’ve heard people talk about “The Office” for years and I was never really interested in learning more about it.  I watched “Parks and Rec” because my housemates were into it at the time, but that was one of the first TV series I had invested in.  When I got around to watching “The Office,” I was surprised that I enjoyed it, once I was familiar with the characters.  And, being the romantic that I am, I fell for Jim and Pam’s relationship. Continue reading “Jim and Pam”

The Vocation of the Present

The Vocation of the Present

As school draws near and I find myself mentally preparing for a new year, I feel a growing excitement.  It is mixed, however, with the knowledge that once this roller-coaster starts, it will not truly end until May.  So I am saying a sad goodbye to sleeping in, staying up late, and not repeating myself fifteen times.

A few days ago, as melancholics are apt to do, I was reflecting on death.  Particularly on my death.  And how I don’t know when it will happen.  It could be seventy years or this week.  I have hopes and dreams about getting married and having a family, but those may never be fulfilled.  Perhaps, I mused, perhaps I haven’t met the man I will marry because there isn’t one.  Perhaps I don’t get married.  Perhaps there is not much life left for me.   Continue reading “The Vocation of the Present”

Being the Adventure

“Someday, I want to be the adventure someone chooses.”

The words resonate in my heart, even though I’ve never quite thought of it like that.  My friend is telling me that she has encouraged men she was interested in to pursue their dreams.  Yet what she really wants is to be the adventure they choose to pursue.  I hear her ache and I feel a similar one in my own heart.

We are millennials.  In many ways, I do not believe I fit into my generation.  However, in this regard, I do: I desire greatness.  I do not mean that I long to be recognized or praised in front of all.  Nor do I want empty words of admiration or platitudes repeated just to satisfy a longing to be great.

No.

I want to contribute, in some meaningful way, to society.  I want to leave an impression.  I want to fill a need.  I want to embrace adventure and travel and see new sights.  I want to feel the exhilarating rush of being absolutely, irrevocably alive.  I don’t want to do this by getting high, imbibing too much alcohol, or living a way that is less than I am.  I want to live fully my humanity.

At times I feel like I haven’t done much in my twenty-something years of living.  And by some standards, I haven’t.

I have:
-graduated from high school
-graduated from college (and completed English and Theology theses at 20 pages each)
-studied abroad
-gone on three mission trips, leading one of them
-been a small part in saving at least one child from abortion during my time sidewalk counseling
-been a Confirmation sponsor for two people and godmother to two others
-been published in two newspapers and a college student publication
-traveled to: Mexico, Canada, Honduras, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Vatican City, and 32 of the states in the US
-successfully taught high school for 3.5 years
-walked El Camino de Santiago

 

Yet despite these “accomplishments” I am left longing for more adventures.  Namely, the adventure of marriage and family.  The person I immediately turn to when thinking of marriage as an adventure is the ever-endearing G.K. Chesterton.

The supreme adventure is being born.  There we do walk suddenly into a splendid startling trap.  There we do see something of which we have not dreamed before.  Our father and mother do lie in wait for us and leap out on us, like brigands from a bush.  Our uncle is a surprise.  Our aunt is, in the beautiful common expression, a bolt from the blue.  When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world that we have not made.  In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale.

So my dear Chesterton would tell me that I am already living the supreme adventure: I have been born into it.  I would argue with him (since it is often my nature to be non-compliant) that my current life is not the familial adventure he speaks of since I am in the “in between” time.  I have a house but it is rented.  I live with friends and not a family of my own.  It is good, but not what I long for.  Perhaps he would agree with me in these points.  In this hypothetical argument, he might remind me that marriage, for all my silly idealism, is not perfection.  He might say this:

When we defend the family we do not mean it is always a peaceful family; when we maintain the thesis of marriage we do not mean that it is always a happy marriage.  We mean that it is the theatre of the spiritual drama, the place where things happen, especially the things that matter.  It is not so much the place where a man kills his wife as the place where he can take the equally sensational step of not killing his wife.

I remember the look of confusion and a bit of shock on my mom’s face when I read her that quote once.  But isn’t it true?  Sometimes the more sensational thing is two human beings, undeniably different even if undeniably in love, not killing each other.  Clearly, Chesterton was a married man.

However, I do not wish to simply quote Chesterton all day, though I love his writings even if I haven’t read many of them.  Rooted deep in the hearts of modern man, I believe, is the desire to give entirely of oneself, wholly and without reserve or end.  This is the longing for marriage.  The desire we have to be the adventure that someone else undertakes.  What adventure (apart from that of pursuing God) could be greater than looking at another human being and saying, “You.  I choose you and only you forever.  I choose to journey through life with you, come what may.  I choose your heart to pursue and cherish always.  And I know time will change us.  In ten years, you will not be the same person I married.  But I will still choose you.

It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word.

As much as this millennial longs to do all kinds of things and pursue all sorts of adventures (pilgrimage to the Holy Land, run a half marathon, go to jail for a night*, or fly a plane), I long for the simple adventure of a home and a family.  In many ways, my desires are not so adventurous or dramatic after all.  They are little things, daily things.  The adventure of simply being the adventure.

The old-fashioned Englishman, like my father, sold houses for his living but filled his own house with his life.

*Naturally, when I say I wish to go to jail for a night, it is with the idea that I went standing up for something I deeply believe in.